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We were due to open the ride on Easter Sunday this year, because the legend of the Flying Dutchman takes place on Easter Sunday, but of course in the end we never did…
Efteling personnel worked day and night in order to be able to open the Flying Dutchman ride on time, but because of the complexity of the attraction – a combination of walk-through, dark ride and water coaster – more time was needed than first planned. The disappointment was enormous.
This is our biggest attraction ever, but this is not the first time we have had a delay, because we also put Dreamflight back by one season in 1993. You know, Efteling does not always walk the easiest route. You can buy a rollercoaster from a catalogue, but we prefer to create unique attractions, and with this you cannot be sure it won’t create problems in the course of construction.
Just before the season started, we advised the public that the ride would not be ready and we would tell them more in June. Although the ride system (engineering by KumbaK Coasters) is already in place, we could not take the final shot of people in boats on the ride, so we did not make our commercial. Then in June we advised that the ride would not open this season. So now all our marketing has been put back into the refrigerator and stored for next year.
In Holland, the Efteling has an image as a safe and reliable park and if we say something is not right for our guests than they believe us. By communicating clearly and honestly about the problems we were understood and accepted very well, and this stopped any bad publicity.
At the entrance to the park and before the ticket booths we put up a huge sign saying the ride would not be open, so people knew before they came in and could make their own decision.
The same day that we informed the press that the ride would be delayed until next season, we also sent a letter to our season pass holders, signed by one of the directors. We explained what was going on and that the Dutchman really would fly for our 55th season in 2007. For this upcoming anniversary, all the season pass holders will be offered a free ticket to come back and see the ride.
People might not notice it as much, but we have still spent millions of euros on landscaping in the park this year, and we have also changed a lot of the entertainment offered. But of course the delay to the Flying Dutchman did affect attendance and revenues, but at this stage it is difficult to say by how much. We will probably be a few per cent less than last year by the end of our winter season. It’s not as bad as some suggested.